Business owners warned about continuing music-copyright scams

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A gang of grifters operating in the Soi Bunkanchanaram neighborhood again has authorities warning business owners about music-copyright scams.

Piyada Pleesai, 34, said a group of about six men recently came into her restaurant claiming to represent the Inter Music Copyright Co. One was dressed as a policeman and demanded she pay 30,000 baht for playing music in her eatery without buying a music license.

Piyada wisely went to police at the Dongtan station, but found that the officers offered her no assistance and told her to negotiate with the scammers herself. She claimed police told her that if she didn’t, she’d be locked up.

One of 3 “fake” officials caught on camera before he and his accomplices were about to sneak out of the police station during a similar extortion scam in November 2012.One of 3 “fake” officials caught on camera before he and his accomplices were about to sneak out of the police station during a similar extortion scam in November 2012.

Piyada negotiated the extortion down to 15,000 baht, but said that she’d been victimized earlier by the same scam.

The fraudsters apparently have been operating for some time, as the owner of Bagga Massage reported a similar scam in August last year. That time, however, the masseuse said she refused to pay and was beaten up by the gang members.

In March, the Central Committee of Price, Products and Services of the Department of Internal Trade listed only 10 companies authorized to collect license fees and fines: GMM Music Publishing International Co., Thai Copyright Collection Co., RMS Publishing Co., MPS Music Co., TCC SPC Co., Partner Smile Co., CMC Entertainment Co., VPP Center Music Co., Intellectual Property Management Co., and Limited Partnership. Any others should be reported to the department for investigation.

Of course, that doesn’t stop grifters from claiming they are from authorized companies. And if unscrupulous law enforcement is sharing in the extortion proceeds, business owners will continue to find themselves at a disadvantage.

However, in a similar situation in November last year, when the fraudsters demanded compensation of 30,000 baht, a pizza restaurant owner being extorted managed to call their bluff by asking police to call GMM to verify their identity. Realizing their trick was up, the gang used the commotion and confusion at the station as cover to flee, leaving the pizza cooks and their music behind.  Reporters did manage to take a photo of one of them.

Until Thailand changes its bizarre practice of charging business owners simply to play music they already legally own – as is the case in most countries – then the scams will continue. The best business owners can do to protect themselves is make sure they’ve paid for music licenses.

If music-copyright scammers are caught and prosecuted, they face jail terns of 3-5 years and fines of up to 10,000 baht. Those needing help or assistance can call the Department of Intellectual Property at 02-547-4421-25 or 1368.